It’s been about a month since one of my elders mentioned Easter and quarantine in the same sentence. “What should we do about Easter if all this worsens?” he asked. I assumed Easter services would commence with the church gathered as usual. Besides, who’d want to do church online?
Was I ever wrong.
Here we stand on the first day of arguably the church’s most beloved (and popular) week, with most of the world’s citizens cloistered at home to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. Most churches across the world have moved their weekly Lord’s Day services online using platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube. This week many congregations, including mine, will be doing Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday services online.
Church leaders thinking deeply and creatively about how best to handle Holy Week services, particularly since Easter is traditionally one of two occasions—along with Christmas—when scores of unbelievers flock to church buildings. Here’s how several pastors who serve as TGC Council members are approaching one of the most challenging Holy Weeks in recent history.
Living Faith Bible Fellowship (Tampa, Florida)
Living Faith plans to beef up its online services Sunday and to add a Good Friday fellowship via Zoom, which will include member testimonies, extended prayer, and the ministry of God’s Word.
“We’ll ask our regular attendees to invite their unsaved family and friends as always,” lead pastor Darryl Williamson said. “In some ways, it’ll be the same as in the past, except I’m sure we’ll connect the resurrection to our current crisis,” he said.
“Interestingly, and perhaps opportunistically, many of our unsaved neighbors are anxious about their lives but probably not about eternity. The brokenness of our world is an opportunity for us to share with them about the dramatic and redemptive longing we all have for a world that isn’t broken. We’re praying that longing allows the promise of the kingdom and its resurrection to find fertile ground in hearts anxious about life and death.”
Crossway Community Church (Bristol, Wisconsin)
During the first three weeks of quarantine, Crossway Community videotaped brief worship segments including songs, Scripture reading, prayer, and a brief message from the Psalms from senior pastor Mike Bullmore. On Easter Sunday, Bullmore said the church will likely continue this approach, returning to a previous series in John’s Gospel.
“We’re considering a livestream for Easter, but we’ve been so encouraged by the responsiveness and the level of engagement with these videos that we’re wondering if it makes sense to change,” he said. “Part of me is very reluctant to do livestreaming. Try as I might I can’t get past the feeling of artificiality. . . . I’d rather do something that is clearly provisional and openly acknowledge that provisionality so that we can, while still connecting with our people, all look forward to the real thing.
“We’re realizing afresh what a precious thing the body of Christ is, and there’s a regularly voiced desire to be together again—to sing, to be around the Lord’s Table together, to receive God’s Word together, to be able to do something as simple as greet each other. These things have always been precious. We feel that even more now.”
Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA) (Birmingham, Alabama)
Like most churches, Briarwood has been streaming its full worship service live each Lord’s Day, including all the standard biblical elements of congregational singing, confessions, assurance of pardon, Scripture reading, all culminating in the preached Word. This will carry over to Easter, senior pastor Harry Reeder said. Briarwood will also do virtual services for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and an Easter sunrise service. Briarwood’s Sunday evening service is being replaced temporarily with a 30-minute program featuring a devotion and Q&A session with Reeder and Briarwood elder Bruce Stallings.
“We explain to all ‘attendees’ that all of this is not a ‘new norm’; it is simply a blessed remedy for this present distress,” Reeder said. “It does give us an opportunity to see how important personal and family worship is. The norm should be daily personal and family worship leading to Lord’s Day gathered worship. At the moment our modified gathered worship is being used to encourage personal and family worship. We’ll do the same this week.”
Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church (Annandale, Virginia)
Typically, Easter at Cornerstone begins with a breakfast. Then, prior to the worship service, members adorn a large cross beside the church building with fresh flowers—as a visible witness to the new life believers have in Christ.
Obviously, this year’s restrictions will change the nature of Cornerstone’s traditional celebration. “We will still adorn the cross, but we’ll have a drive-by drop off of the flowers,” senior pastor Bill Kynes said. “We’ll take pictures of the adorning of the cross to show during our livestream worship. Also, instead of the breakfast, we’ve asked everyone to send a picture of themselves or their family—however they’d like to present it. We’re making a slideshow of all the pictures, which we’ll show as a part of our livestream worship.
“These are couple of ways to make Easter special, connecting people in creative ways and showing our neighborhood that though we don’t gather, Christ is still risen.”
High Pointe Baptist Church (Austin, Texas)
Senior pastor Juan Sánchez has focused his church on helping families worship God in their homes during the quarantine. High Pointe elders have prepared a home worship guide that includes songs and prayer points. On Sunday mornings, the church posts a recorded sermon from the Psalms.
“The most important thing we can do is simply provide the Word to our people and equip them to guide their families in worship at home,” Sanchez said. “This Easter, we’re simply continuing our series on the Psalms.”
Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) (Greenville, South Carolina)
Second Presbyterian will livestream its Sunday morning and evening services on Easter as usual. On Easter, the church will also livestream its sunrise service with its partner African American church.
“By conviction, we believe God’s ordinary means of grace are essential to God’s people, and our feedback has confirmed the help these Lord’s Day services have been,” senior pastor Richard Phillips said.
Del Ray Baptist Church (Alexandria, Virginia)
Del Ray Baptist Church will livestream services on both Good Friday and Sunday, in the same fashion as in recent weeks. Lead pastor Garrett Kell said the church had considered a drive-in service.
“In the end, the elders voted not to do that,” Kell said. “In reaching out to lost folks, we’ll be passing along the link to our services to friends, neighbors, and coworkers so they can watch online.”